realistic, sympathetic, capable, and not-terribly-annoying youthful characters, of which the failure of Wesley Crusher (from Star Trek: The Next Generation) as a character – good in concept, but poor in execution – is emblematic. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about recently because I’ve experienced several poorly done youthful characters in recent media I’ve consumed, and because I’ve been thinking about a character in Fo’Fonas (Wraith/Revia, for those few of you who have read the rough draft). I was even thinking about it enough to read a book on parenting, but more on that in this week’s review.
So I did that. I spent weeks, even months, walking around the school, making mental notes about the ways in which people spoke to different people, how it was different depending on the person and the relationship involved, the different dialects and slangs and jargons that were employed, the patterns to the words. Then I sat down, and in my first serious attempt at a novel length work (which I still intend to finish one day), I sought to incorporate what I had learned about conversation into my dialogue. When I’d written the first sixty thousand words or so, I sent out the rough draft to a few people, and asked for feedback.
e’ve posted essays here on the site, but we’ve never taken the time to define what separates an essay from a generic blog post. Is this post itself an essay? How is an essay different from an article? Are my book reviews essays? The context will have some influence on what constitutes an essay, but these days I consider an essay to be a long-form, written analysis or reflection on a particular topic that can be primarily expository, but should have an element of persuasion or assertion. It need not have five paragraphs, it need not have a precisely formatted first paragraph with a thesis as the last sentence, and it need not have all of the points the essay will cover neatly laid out therein.
Have you ever been reading or watching something, and just when things were starting to get interesting, you found yourself asking: “What? Why didn’t they do ______?” Sometimes, there’s a very good reason for this that will be discovered later, or the creator made a conscious decision for the character to make a mistake in that instance, or perhaps they were even limited by more practical considerations (in the case of movies or television) like special effects budgets and capabilities. Regardless, these dichotomies, where you think something could have or should have happened, but it didn’t, can be terribly disruptive to a story.
need to have different languages for different cultures, or measurement systems based on the length of the Prime’s big toe, or different calendars that never quite line up properly. It’s your world, and you’re free to design it in as orderly a fashion as you could desire. But you shouldn’t.
inspires strong opinions. Most people, and even many authors, use rules of grammar and understanding of grammar as best practices that help enable clarity of communication. Some people, like me, get a little too fixated on the rules of grammar, like avoiding dangling prepositions. The outlier is a particular part of speech that many people, and not just those who wield the pen on a regular basis, apparently love to hate: adverbs.
For our purposes in talking about framing stories, we will define the story being framed as the plotlines explored directly by the narrative. To take a well-known example, look at Harry Potter. The plotlines of the character arcs, and combatting Voldemort, are the core story. A framing story could be if there were a line at the beginning or end of the books saying "based upon the diaries of Harry Potter, Wizard." Which takes us conveniently to the next set of definitions we need to supply.
I’ve said it many times on the site: I have something of a love affair with the English language. Where some people moan over homonyms and homophones, or grumble about synonyms and antonyms, or the fact that tenses are so erratic, to me they are features, not flaws.
Other than indulging my penchant for expounding on space-related topics, and perhaps providing you with some insight into rocketry, I bring this discussion up because it informs a way I have been slowly coming to approach writing. I, probably like a lot of new writers, was approaching the writing of my stories like a single-stage-to-orbit. When I sat down to write, I had an expectation in my head that I would sit down and craft all of the components of a story in a single pass, and that revisions were mostly just for changing around wording and cleaning up typos. Which, it turns out, is really challenging to do, because stories are complicated.
I don't actually know how much this post will help you in ridding your works of pesky anachronisms, but the title just seemed to clever to resist. If you're not already familiar, an anachronism is a literary, spatial or temporal (usually temporal) transplant. A detail, a phrase, an expression, a device, or really anything else could be an anachronism; most commonly these are stock expressions or devices of our own time that we accidentally put into our works. Nor are they unique to literature, as there are plenty of examples in movies and other media. For instance, perhaps a period movie might show cars from a later model year driving around in the background. Or my personal favorite, when an author or screenwriter has archers "fire" their arrows, an expression which could not predate the advent of firearms. This last one even made its way into The Lord of the Rings movies (notably during the battle at Helm's Deep).